New Jersey Nets Payroll: $51.7 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million (estimate)
Roughly: $6.3 million under cap
When you trade your franchise player, you had better get something really good in return (are you listening, Memphis?). Not only did the Nets get expiring contracts and draft picks, they also got a promising young point guard to take his place. Devin Harris may never be the triple-double threat that Kidd was on a nightly basis, but Harris is currently a better shooter, scorer, defender, and is 10 years younger. His five year contract extension starts next season and it is very affordable, averaging about $8 million per year. Harris dished out 6.5 assists and added 15.4 points each night in his 25 game stint with New Jersey. I expect those numbers to rise in the next few seasons. The Nets made a great trade to get Harris and he’ll be leading their team long after Kidd has retired.
As I said before, New Jersey obtained some expiring contracts for Kidd which will save them about $6.4 million this summer. If you include the expiring deals of Jamaal Magloire and Bostjan Nachbar, it adds up to nearly $13 million in savings. The Nets will need that cap space if they expect to add some free-agent talent this summer.
After a very disappointing and injury plagued season last year, Richard Jefferson’s expensive contract looked like it could haunt the team for a long time. Luckily, Jefferson came back in a big way to put up 22.7 points and play in all 82 games. This was a very welcome sign for the Nets considering they will have to pay R-Jeff $42.4 million over the next three years. It looks like Jefferson will combine with Harris and Vince Carter to form a very potent offensive trio in the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey’s front line was very weak this season, but one player that stood out was Josh Boone. Given the opportunity for more minutes, Boone thrived to the tune of 7.3 rebounds per game and 8.2 points on 55% shooting. He showed he was capable of some big games and once he displays more consistency, he could be the Net’s best big man. Boone still has two years remaining under his cheap rookie contract.
In order to make the Jason Kidd deal go through, the Nets did have to take one bad contract from the Mavericks; Trenton Hassell’s remaining $8.7 million over the next two years (the last year is a player option). The deal isn’t that expensive, but Hassell barely played and when he did it wasn’t good. Hassell is just dead weight that is waiting to be hauled out of town on the next train.
When the Nets traded Jason Collins to Memphis for Stromile Swift, it was a slight upgrade. However, it wasn’t a large enough upgrade to warrant the $6.2 million left on Swift’s contract for next season. Stromile was unspectacular in limited minutes with New Jersey and they will need him to play a lot better next year, not only for the large paycheck but also for the team’s well being.
Vince Carter’s new contract looked like a huge mistake as soon as he signed it. It was even more questionable after the Nets unloaded Kidd and seemingly went into rebuilding mode. However, I have to give some credit to Carter for playing pretty well and staying reasonably healthy even though there isn’t much motivation for him to do so, which has been a problem in the past. Carter’s 21.3 scoring average wasn’t spectacular for him, but he did shoot and rebound the ball well and averaged a career high in assists with 5.1 per game. He had better stay on the court and put up great numbers if he wants to earn the four years and $66.8 million left on his contract. If he can’t, Vinsanity’s deal will turn sour very quickly.
Are the Nets actually in a rebuilding mode? They have a nice trio of players to work with and they finished just three games out of the playoffs in the East despite the turmoil caused by the Jason Kidd saga. New Jersey’s biggest need, by a wide margin, is in their front line. Josh Boone and Sean Williams looked like they can be decent role players, but they are not yet dependable weapons. Nenad Krstic used be to promising but now he has major health concerns and didn’t look so good in the 45 games he did play this season. The Nets need help in the post and fast. Where they go from here will determine if they are truly rebuilding or not. If they use their little cap space or a trade to acquire a good forward or center, they could be back in the playoffs next year. If they ship out Richard Jefferson or, somehow, Vince Carter, the rebuilding will become official. With rumors of a Jefferson for Carmelo Anthony trade swirling, it’s going to be an interesting summer in New Jersey.
I want Keith Van Horn’s job. How would you like to get a phone call where somebody offers you $4.3 million dollars to do absolutely nothing? You’d think they were crazy, right? That is what Van Horn earned to be part of the Kidd deal so that the salary figures would work out evenly. The NBA, where money for nothing happens.